My film ORDER OF MAGNITUDE is part of the B3 Biennial of the Moving Image in Frankfurt, from 9-18 October. As part of my participation in the festival, I spent some time talking with Johannes Grenzfurthner (founder of monochrom, director of Traceroute and many other films). We chat about software, algorithms, neutralism, social credit, self-driving cars, how big tech influences artistic expression, and, unavoidably, more.
My work Safebook is part of exhibition at Science Gallery Detroit titled Future Present: Design in a Time of Urgency. Curated by Antajuan Scott, Mark Sullivan, Cezanne Charles, Olga Stella, and Ralph Borland, the exhibition asks questions such as:
…how does the design of technology impact society? What impact does design have on the built environment, and on the communities that occupy it? How does design feature in food systems and food security, in biology and scientific inquiry? And what is the entwinement of design with social visions, such as Afro or indigenous futurism?
The exhibition is up through December 11th at 1001 Woodward in Detroit.
I gave an artist talk at the Athens Digital Arts Festival, where my work Safebook was on exhibition. Titled Hide (Nearly) Everything: Understanding Social Media Through Net Art Strategies of Resistance, the abstract was:
The world is learning more every day about how data collected by the dominant software platforms is not just used to “improve the lives of as many people as possible” (Google), or, to “give people the power to build communities” (Facebook), but is also producing broad negative effects for the cultural, social, and political future of humanity. In particular, the designs of these systems compel users to provide increasing amounts of personal information, enabling rapid expansion of corporate and state infrastructures for the purposes of surveillance, profiling, and profit. While outcries over resulting events such as Cambridge Analytica’s manipulations of the electorates in the US and UK have led to campaigns like #deletefacebook, most users remain unwilling to disconnect—especially in this new era of global pandemic. Given this, an alternative approach is the artist’s strategy of “software recomposition,” treating existing websites not as fixed spaces of consumption and interaction but instead as fluid spaces of manipulation and experimentation. This talk by the artist behind Safebook (part of ADAF) will present several of his projects that aim to not only investigate the cultural effects of software, but to also restore user agency over where, how, and when user data is (ab)used.
This talk won an award at the Festival.
Opening today from arebyte Gallery in London is Real-Time Constraints, a browser-extension-based exhibition critically examines “the current state of automated and autonomic computing to provide alternative narratives to data-driven and algorithmic approaches, referencing fake-news, gender bias and surveillance.” The show includes work by Gretchen Andrew, Sofia Crespo X Dark Fractures, DISNOVATION, Jake Elwes, Ben Grosser, Libby Heaney, and Joel Simon, and is co-curated with Luba Elliott and Rebecca Edwards.
You can read a full statement about the exhibition at arebyte’s site for the show, but here’s an excerpt:
Taking the form of a browser plug-in, the exhibition reveals itself as a series of pop-ups where the works are disseminated over the duration of a typical working day, interrupting the screen to provide a ‘stopping cue’ from relentless scrolling, email notifications and other computer-centered, interface-driven work. Real-Time Constraints presents itself as a benevolent invasion – the size, quantity, content and sound of the pop-ups have been decided upon by each artist to feed into the networked performance. The exhibition is experienced through a synchronised global approach where viewers encounter the same pop-ups at the same time no matter where they are, amplifying the exhibition’s disturbance of mundanity across every time zone.
You can download the exhibition for Firefox or Chrome (links later removed as its no longer available), and see the exhibition booklet here.
I also participated in an exhibition opening panel discussion on AI and Art with most of the participants in the exhibition:
I’m very happy to be a part of this exhibition, not only because of who I’m working with but also because of the novel form and approach it takes during this time of pandemic.
The exhibition runs from 24 July to 30 September, 2020.
I first met Geert Lovink in 2013, while attending the Unlike Us #3 conference at the Institute for Network Cultures in Amsterdam (INC). I was there to speak about Facebook Demetricator, in what was at that time one of the first talks I’d given about the project. INC, which was founded by Geert, “analyzes and shapes the terrain of network cultures through events, publications, and online dialogue. [Their] projects evolve around urgent publishing, alternative revenue models, critical design and making, digital counter culture and much more.” Before and since, I have regularly looked to and read their free publications as a timely and astute critical lens on social media, networks, and platforms in the 21st century. Further, Geert’s books (such as Sad by Design, Social Media Abyss, Networks without a Cause, and more), blog posts, and other writings constitute an evolving analysis of the internet that blends European theory with practice-based research and aesthetics. If you aren’t already familiar with Geert and INC’s work, check it out.
Since the publication of Geert’s latest book and the release of my recent film (which Geert wrote about here), we’ve been talking, and one outcome of that is the recently published dialogue on the INC blog, where we wrote back and forth about platform capitalism, software recomposition, post-digital and the new aesthetic, the broad shift from text to image, the state of online video (including TikTok), whether an avant-garde can happen on social media at all, and, as always, more.
The latest project to come out of The Wrong (which runs The Wrong Digital Art Biennale) is The Wrong TV–a new online tv platform for digital art, music & culture, with 24/7 free live streaming. David Quiles Guilló reached out and asked me to curate a program for one of the channels, and that program has just opened.
A 9+ hour loop of video-based work from about 60 artists (including myself), “Ben Grosser Presents” is a mix of computational video, multidisciplinary performance, net art documentation and promos, critical supercuts, video art, and, as always, more.
So, starting Tuesday, 7 April 2020, the program starts on channel 3 (and on the main channel beginning mid-day). GO WATCH, or view the final program below.
Also, El Pais has just written about The Wrong TV, including my segment on it.
Final Program (in no particular order):
Ben Grosser Presents
THE WRONG TV (channel 3)
7 Apr, 2020
Mark Zuckerberg Haircuts
Crowd-Sourced Intelligence Agency
Jennifer Gradecki and Derek Curry
Bittercoin, the worst miner ever
Martín Nadal & César Escudero Andaluz
All the Ways (The Simpsons)
AdNauseam – Clicking Ads So You Don’t Have To
Daniel Howe and Helen Nissenbaum
Reload the Love!
Fly the Flag
Pizzabook turns your facebook into pizza
167 (single channel version for preview)
Playing A Girl (short excerpt)
Everything but the Clouds
Computers Watching Movies
Breathing a Doily into my Trachea
Jan Robert Leegte
Head Swap for Amplified Violin and Interactive Robotic Painting Machine
Ben Grosser and Zack Browning
Singing with Code – Excerpt
You like my like of your like of my status
Touching Software (House of Cards)
PREDICTIVE ART BOT [intro]
State of Affairs_3 minute clip
Vertical Abstract Video
Browsing Facebook with Safebook
Assorted Vision: The Matrix (Hue)
Unknown Armature (1): Breath Sensor Organ
César Escudero Andaluz
More Like This
ContactRot: A Time Sensitive Address Book App for iOS
The making of Leap second festival 2016
Self Portrait (animated)
THE PIRATE CINEMA
What do machines sing of?
Patterns of Life
Art for Spooks
N. Adriana Knouf and Claudia Pederson
fécamp Fagnet n°6 – 1R
dead air 2017
I Know Where Your Cat Lives
What is 500 Years of Amazing Latte Nail Art with Salt?
“Empty Apartments” Walk-through
ORDER OF MAGNITUDE
Social Turkers: Crowdsourced Relationships
X by Bjørn Magnhildøen, Spain (Jury Award 2017)
CH2 unattendedVaporware app trailer
Channel TWo (Jess Parris Westbrook and Paige Treebridge)
The Art of Simon Fischer
The Eighth Alps
60 Chords 60 Colors
15 Seconds of Fame
STAIR DOT (CHANNEL 1 OF 4)
Two Questions for Gina Cheri Haspel
Abram Stern (aphid)
Quick Fix – the vending machine selling likes and followers
Last fall I did an interview with art critic and curator Valentina Tanni at Artribune Magazine in Rome. We talk about social media platforms, metrics, demetrication, the challenges of working against big tech, the wider world of net art, the role of art in society, and a bit about future projects. An excerpt of the interview was originally published in Artribune’s print magazine (issue #52, p. 75). The full interview was just published online. Both are Italian translations, so in case you’d prefer here’s the original exchange in English.
Long-form interview with Simone Salis of the The Sim Show podcast (formerly called 2343). We talk at length about my film ORDER OF MAGNITUDE, Zuckerberg’s skewed sense of “community,” how ideology gets embedded in tools, the need for cross-disciplinary translators, our obsessions with metrics, a metric’s own obsessions (do metrics have egos?), and computational agency more broadly.
My film ORDER OF MAGNITUDE, currently on view as part of 24/7 at Somerset House in London, has received specific mention in a number of reviews of the exhibition. Here’s a few of the best quotes and links:
- “a hilarious satire on 24/7 overlords” — The Guardian
- “to which circle of hell have I descended?” — New Scientist
- “We are losing sleep [but] …maybe it helps to be deafened by the sampled voice of Mark Zuckerberg” — La Stampa
- “very funny …[has] Facebook billionaire endlessly repeating “more” …like a nodding dog” — Financial Times
- “has [Zuckerberg] firing out growth figures like an auctioneer on speed” — The Spectator
In addition to exhibition reviews, ORDER OF MAGNITUDE has been the subject of other press features (unrelated to 24/7). A few choice quotes, with links to the full articles:
- “freakish” — Boing Boing
- “literal art” — Fast Company
- “[not sure] whether laughing or crying is the right reaction” — Social Media Watchblog
Finally, I’ve been collecting reactions made online by individuals (e.g., on social media). These are often the most useful for me personally (and also can be the most humorous). Here’s a sampling:
- “needs the equivalent of a strobe light warning” – Maria Lantin
- “fun against a background of horror” – Frische Broetchen
- “Zuckerberg as insatiable black hole” – Francis Wu
- “silly, annoying, disturbing, profound” – Dharma Won
- “nobody has gone beyond 7m without experiencing PTSD” – Tony Roberts